Nobody is answering the question ‘are all these polytechnic mergers good for local students?’ says TEU’s Tumu Arataki, James Houkāmau.
At present there are talks or merger processes underway between Weltec and Whitireia, Waiariki and Bay of Plenty, and Aoraki and CPIT, Houkāmau says it is time for everyone to take a step back and ask, what do students get from this?
“Mergers might save money, but if in the long term students in regional communities lose their face-to-face course to online provision, or end up travelling further, or do not have the same number of local support staff to help them learn, then we need to ask, ‘why are we doing this?’”
TEU does not have a blanket opposition to mergers and collaborations. It has worked hard in the past to make sure mergers go smoothly, and to ensure staff retain their jobs and conditions.
“But our job and the reason people work in polytechnics is to give local people skills and education”, says Houkāmau. “We owe it to the local communities in the Bay of Plenty, Porirua, the Hutt Valley Canterbury and Timaru to makes sure that all these possible mergers and collaborations have that same goal. Otherwise, why are we doing it?”
Houkāmau says TEU plans to undertake a significant investigation of recent mergers to see what worked, what did not work, and whether students, staff, and local communities ended up better off in later years.